Although the countless meetings, summits, seminars, and other manner of formal gatherings drawn together in the name of hiphip all claim to be special, they tend to share some unfortunate commonalities: Inevitably, conscious rappers will square off against gangster rappers in a discussion about integrity in the genre. The in-fighting will stop only with a joint attack on journalists, record labels, and radio stations for refusing to recognize groundbreaking artists. In discussion of the elements of hiphop, one of the cornerstones will inevitably be left out, sligting either graf artists or breakers. An open-mike battle populated with promising MCs will devolve into a game of the dozens. A fashion show of young women modeling urban streetwear will devolve intro a strip show. Yet, somehow, the D.C. Hip-Hop Theater Festival, the only free, city-sponsored event of its kind in the mid-Atlantic region, manages to avoid these sad occurrences year after year. It is successful, in part, because the event celebrates what hiphop is instead of bitching about what it should be. This week’s festivities include a performance by U.K “body popper and tragedian“ Benji Reed; “Jack Ya Body,“ a hiphop dance lecture and demonstration; a hiphop film series; and performances by a variety of lyricists, actors, and poets, including Asheru, the Poemcees (pictured), Hueman Prophets, and Psalmayene 24, among others. And best of all, not one single event will involve your demo’s being trashed or your mother’s being disrespected. The fest opens Monday, July 11, and runs through Saturday, July 16, at venues around the city. All events are free. Go to for complete information, or call (202) 724-5513. (Sarah Godfrey)